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The classic question put to restaurant critics is "how do you stay in shape?" And we usually mumble something about taking walks and eating sensible

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The Best (Admittedly Unhealthy) Dishes of 2012

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The classic question put to restaurant critics is "how do you stay in shape?" And we usually mumble something about taking walks and eating sensible breakfasts, but my guess is the average reader has no idea just how much salt and fat we face on a daily basis.

When rich dishes go wrong, they're travesties: I'd much rather choke down a plateful of burnt seitan than have to deal with a filet swamped with foie cream sauce. But when chefs use frying oil, butter and sugar correctly, the results can be astounding. Here, the most impressive snacky dishes drawn from a year of unwise eating:

Pastrami poutine, Cultivate

When I visited Cultivate, the first full-service restaurant on University of Washington's campus, its spectacular pastrami wasn't available by the sandwich at dinnertime. But diners could still taste the Painted Hill's brisket smoke, balanced seasoning and brine when the meat was torn up for a poutine made with thick brown gravy and crisped French fries with admirably creamy centers.

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Blackberry cobbler, Anthony's

I don't always leave room for dessert when writing my reviews, but Anthony's iconic cobbler -- which celebrates, instead of obscures, the essential tartness of its starring local fruit -- is a wonder of pastry that even I couldn't ignore. The cinnamon doughnuts aren't too shabby either.

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Buffalo chicken livers, Bitterroot BBQ

Chicken livers are one of my favorite foods, but even a liver moderate would surely be charmed by Bitterroot's appetizer, featuring buttery livers enrobed in crisp shells of breading and doused with a satisfyingly vinegary hot sauce.

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Banana cream pie, Ma'ono

The best dessert I was served in a sit-down Seattle restaurant this year, Ma'ono's banana cream pie restores its starring fruit's tropical character, so often lost in banana breads and puddings. Restrainedly topped with just the right amount of whipped cream, the pie -- like Ma'Ono's famous fried chicken -- perfectly balances tenderness and crust.

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Tlayuda, El Tio

The fried grasshoppers at El Tio are so novel that a few weeks after I chronicled the tasty critters in my review, King 5 sent a crew to cover them for a food segment. But the most memorable dish at the Burien restaurant is a crackly tlayuda, smeared with lard-enhanced beans and topped with rubbery Oaxacan string cheese.

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Potato chips, Terra Plata

Tamara Murphy can grow many of the vegetables she needs in her recently-installed rooftop garden, but probably not the potatoes required for homespun waffle-cut potato chips, served with a cheese-chive dip that makes all those teenage snacking sessions seem like palate training.

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